Wellington County officially opened the new Community Services Centre in Mount Forest last week.
The facility is at 355 Durham Street West, and houses the new Mount Forest Child Care and Learning Centre, the North Wellington Ontario Early Years Centre and the North Wellington office of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
The 10,450 square foot centre was constructed using the Green Legacy Green Building Standards, meeting the highest level of certification possible, Emerald.
It boasts an outdoor playground, training and meeting rooms, clinic rooms, and meets the county’s barrier-free accessibility standards.
“The County of Wellington worked collaboratively with the Ontario Early Years Centre and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health on this project,” said Warden Joanne Ross-Zuj.
“We developed innovative approaches which will assist parents and families in the Wellington North community. Quality child care is essential in a child’s early development.”
Social services committee chairman Gord Tosh said, “Building the centre near Victoria Cross Public School is beneficial for parents and children. It will help ease the transition into Kindergarten. The new facility will serve local needs for many years to come.”
Wellington North Mayor Mike Broomhead said “the county is proud to be helping families in this area receive quality child care. By forming strong partnerships we strengthen our community.”
Luisa Della-Croce, director of Child Care Services for the county, said the centre is a “fantastic resource in this area. Our staff look forward to working in this modern facility.”
The capital costs for the project were funded by the county and the province as part of the Best Start Initiative.
At a later meeting of Wellington North council, Broomhead asked Ron MacKinnon, the executive director for the Community Resource Centre of North and Centre Wellington for his opinion of the new centre. Broomhead said he and MacKinnon sat on the committee for the new building.
“Ron plays a big part in that building too,” the mayor said.
MacKinnon said the catchment area for the programs includes Centre Wellington, North Wellington, Minto and Mapleton.
The program includes licensed child care – one centre operates in Fergus and the other at St. John’s School, in Arthur.
Another program is Ontario Early Years, which brought him into contact with Broomhead, working at the new building operated by Wellington County. The Ontario Early Years centre offers programs for families who have children to age 6, giving children a great start before going off to school.
MacKinnon said his main purpose at the meeting was to speak on the Community Resource Centre’s third program, which is outreach and support services.
“Those services are for families who are struggling,” he said.
One of the programs the organization offers is transportation service. He noted his colleague, Jennifer Hammond, was at Wellington North last speaking to council on similar issues.
“I thought it was time to give everyone a bit of an update,” MacKinnon said.
The transportation service was started because of a recognition by service providers there were issues getting people to the programs because they did not have transportation.
The Wellington transportation group is a combination of the Community Resource Centre, Family and Children Services, East Wellington Community Services, Fergus-Elora Transportation Services, North Wellington Seniors Council, the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the Seniors Centre for Excellence.
Instead of making the groups combine their services, they are linked as a network. The purpose is to get people to appointments when there is no other means available to them.
While fees apply to individuals above a certain income, MacKinnon said the vast majority of trips are either free or subsidized. Most are for medical appointments, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability program. He said there are now 40 volunteer drivers, up from 17 about a year and a half ago.
“We’re the one-stop calling centre for the rides,” MacKinnon said. He estimated the Community Resource Centre alone takes in about 300 calls per month.
“It provides a very valuable service for the community.” There are plans to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
“There are very few ways to provide a ride for someone who needs to remain in a wheelchair,” he said. MacKinnon noted there will be fundraising and the centre recently had a bequest of $5,000.
“I’m not here to request funds … but if you have ideas please give us a call.” But, he quipped, “If you have an extra thousand dollars or so at the end of the year, let us know; we could put that money to very good use for you.”